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The Minor Arcana (or Lesser Arcana) are the 56 suit cards of the 78-card deck of tarot playing cards. The Minor Arcana comprise four suits with 14 cards each. Although there are variations, the Minor Arcana commonly employ the Italo-Spanish suits: Wands (alternatively, batons, clubs, or staves), cups, swords, and pentacles (alternatively, coins, disks, or rings). In contrast, the French suits are spades (♠), hearts (♥), diamonds (♦) and clubs (♣).
Each Minor Arcana card in a suit is numbered one (ace) to ten, except for the court cards (or courts)—page, knight, queen, and king—which are comparable to face cards. In one variation, princess and prince cards replace the page and knight cards. Some Italian decks add two more court cards: the maid and the mounted lady.
Since contemporary decks of French playing cards replace both the knight and the page with the jack or knave, such decks only have 52 cards. The remaining 22 cards in a tarot deck are the Major Arcana. Traditionally, the Major Arcana are more significant, but the Minor Arcana are what allow Tarot readers to understand the subtleties and details that surround the major events and signifiers in a Tarot spread; in general, the Major Arcana represent large turning points and the Minor Arcana represent the day-to-day insights.
In divinatory, esoteric and occult tarot, the Minor Arcana are believed to represent relatively mundane features of life. The court cards represent the people we meet.
Each suit also has distinctive characteristics and connotations currently thought to be as follows:
|Latin suit||French suit||Element||Class||Faculty|
|Wands / Batons / Clubs / Staves||Clubs||Fire||Peasantry||Creativity and will|
|Coins / Pentacles / Disks / Rings||Diamonds||Earth||Merchants||Material body or possessions|
|Cups (Chalices)||Hearts||Water||Clergy||Emotions and love|
|Swords||Spades||Air||Nobility and military||Reason|
However, the original divinatory correspondences of the Latin and French suits as conceived by Etteilla for his decks which were followed by S.L. MacGregor Mathers (Golden Dawn Liber T) and A.E. Waite (Rider-Waite-Smith deck) were
- Cups = Hearts / Coeurs
- Swords = Spades / Picques / Pikes
- Batons / Wands = Clubs / Trefles / Trefoils
- Coins / Pentacles = Diamonds / Carreaux / Tiles
The following cards are from the Rider-Waite tarot deck, the most popular tarot deck amongst English-speakers; they are divided by suit, and arranged in ascending order of face value.
- "The Minor Arcana Tarot Cards". Tarot.com. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
- Dee, Jonathan (2002). "Introduction to the Minor Arcana". In Liz Dean. Tarot, An illustrated guide. Silverdale Books. ISBN 1-85605-685-6.
- Decker, R, Depaulis, T, Dummett, M, A Wicked Pack of Cards, chapter 4 "Etteilla: the First Professional", p. 93, St. Martin's Press, N.Y. 1996; Mathers, S.L.M The Tarot, p.11, 1888; Waite, A.E. A Manual of Cartomancy, pp:125-126, Rider, London, 1909
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